A Day in the Life of a Modern Texas Rancher
A Letter From the Owner
It’s far too early in the morning and I’ve been up for at least an hour. I did what any self-respecting American would do. I got my butt out of bed and am making a cup of tea to settle back down and put in a few hours of work while I do it. I woke up to coyote yips in the field. I’m worried. I’m worried about the ram on loan from a local non profit. I asked before taking the ram what I would be out if he met an unfortunate ram demise. I take borrowing things really seriously. I’m worried about Hey Ewe who is not with the rest of the sheep on the 6 acres, but rather running with the horse herd. I’m worried about the lamb. I’d normally have two dogs outside and one inside, but tonight I have two dogs inside. No dog outside. I’m down one dog. Down one very important worker. One influential friend.
The yips intermingled with my dream I was having, about getting ready to go to bed. In the dream I called the dogs for bed and all three of them came running. Bingo was there. In the dream, I knew he wasn’t real but he was really there. Physically. I was happy, so happy to see him. I felt calm. I scooped him up and, in my dream, mused that a little hallucinating couldn’t hurt. In the dream I realized (and now I’m sobbing even though I haven’t sobbed for this dog since he died I guess I’m sobbing because even though I believe he’s still with me in spirit I know that his world body is gone and he is not here to comfort me) that he would be with me every night like that. He would come to me every night when I called the dogs in and I was blissful knowing that I would go to bed with Bingo in my arms. I don’t often let Bingo in my bed, but I did a bit when he was a wee puppy. As he got older and started joining in on all the trail rides, always stopping to plop his little leopard speckled body in whatever body of water he could find, it became such a chore to have him in the bed. I would take him in the shower with me each night in the beginning. Then Bingo in bed. Shower. Bed. He didn’t complain as he got older that he wasn’t allowed in bed. He didn’t sneak on the furniture. He didn’t paw at me (well, not too much… there were a —
— wow I just had to come back from the kind of racking sobs that make a human being really, truly ugly. The tea was ready and while I was getting the tea to steep I got all the dishes that had been left from the day, yesterday, soaking. Something a city mouse will simply never comprehend is how country mice have total game changers occur. Normally Sam would clean all the dishes. Instead, yesterday he had to craft a new chicken hutch on his own. I was supposed to help him with this, but instead I spent 5 hours driving and over three hours of diagnostics to learn that the ATV, the immensely personally valuable (my safe round up! My constant SAVE!) and also financially valuable ATV that is one of the most important physical things that I own, is completely dead. Why? Can’t really figure this one out. The whole engine is blown. Everything was working fine on it until it was used, at night, without permission for non work purposes. The agony. The following day we discovered the lights had been left on all night, which could have caused some of the problems. It stopped starting consistently. The morning after the lights were on, it cut off in the field. It started a few times here and there with attempts to charge the battery, etc. But somehow all the oil was drained from it (yes, we replaced the oil. yes we changed the oil…) Lights on. Dead battery. And coincidentally the whole engine is toast.
The coincidence though of all the timing is uncanny. It’s just one of those coincidences of my life. Can’t figure it out. Won’t try. Leaving the lights on all night would not have caused the destruction of the entire machine. The ATV had a complete and thorough eval just 6 months prior. In fine working condition! A beast! Loved and cared for! It’s not driven through water, it’s not driven hard. It’s driven perhaps 4 times a week? To call the herd in. Sometimes it goes a while week without being driven. And now it’s gone. Useless. Dead. Gone. The things that keep me up at night. What will tomorrow look like without it? Yesterday someone promised me that today would be better. “You will see,” I was told. “I promise.” I was, up until yesterday, handling the death of my much beloved Bingo dog. At least I thought. I thought I was handling it but here I go again with another bout of hideous sobs and the “eee-ee-ee’s that keep popping up suggest perhaps I didn’t handle it at all. Well no. My day most definitely didn’t get better. I don’t like it when people make promises they can’t keep. Again I digress… Back to my Bingo.
So my dream ended with me being at peace, knowing that Bingo would come to me each night as a dream Bingo and I would fall asleep with a non-muddy Mud Pup in my arms. I called Bingo Mud Pup because he liked the muddiest parts of the ponds and creek. Why does thinking “Mud Pup” make me cry so much? Bingaroo. Bingo Country Pup. Bingadoodle Dog. I don’t know. But that make me cry. Good to know.
But I’m NOT asleep. I’m awake. And I don’t know if tomorrow night promises of dream Bingos. I only know that today is Good Friday and I have to get the animals in with no ATV and four weeks ago (FOUR?!? FOUR weeks it’s been??) Bingo Country Pup and Cecelia trapped a feral Hog in the catch pen at the house for me in the morning of the 13th and that’s when things got interesting.
As a budding country mouse I was a bit tickled to walk outside in a fuzzy white bathrobe and boat shoes, the Judge in hand, and find there was that 60lb hog being held up by my two dogs. “Bingo.” Now the truth is, as a budding country mouse, I’ve had to teach myself most things. No one taught me, as a child, how to haul horses, drive the tractor, break a colt or shoot a gun. And the truth is I’m not that much of a good shot. That’s why I have the Judge and the Defender in the first place. I can load those suckers up with a combo of buckshot and slugs and I know, if I’m patient, I’m going to hit something.
So I go out with the Judge, loaded with slugs only, because I know that you can shoot a grown hog seven times and the bugger will still be coming at you. In fact, I know it so much that I’ve practiced what I would do in a hog attack. I’ve practiced it over and over again in my mind. One might even say I manifested that little 60 pound ball of fury. I manifested him charging right to me and in the tunnel vision I had, standing there poised in my fuzzy bathrobe and boat shoes, I was totally calm. I’d found the pig thanks to my dogs, who gleefully had him cornered. I called the dogs to me. They came perfectly. I took a shot (ok maybe it was two shots) at the piggy, and then he came. Just like I’d envisioned. He came straight at me, nice and steady. There wasn’t an ounce of fear. I waited till he was six feet away and fired. He kept coming, so I fired again. That time I got him good, maybe three or four feet away. Shot him right in the head but he didn’t go down. He wandered around a bit before collapsing. I shot him again to be safe. I strung that pig up to my tree and went in to wake Sam up, who was sleeping in because he was sick the night before and alas, Corona Virus was upon us.
That was Friday the 13th. Sam was sick and I kept him home from school because ‘Rona was starting to become a thing and Sam and I are both high risk. With asthma, Sam needs to take extra care. With a long history of chronic throat, respiratory, ear and sinus infections, including a bout of pretty sever mycoplasma pneumonia and a near death experience from an asthma attack, I have to be super careful. I look healthy, and certainly have come a long way from the lunchables and TV-inner eating kid growing up in a smoke and aerosol-filled house I was. (Thanks, by the way, to Eleanor for smoking 2-4 packs of cigarettes a day and using lysol spray to cover it up. Does WONDERS for the lungs…). Four weeks ago I had just recovered from being sick myself, was already several weeks into gearing up for Corona, and had shot my first hog, which, my farrier said with a bit of a smug smile, was coming to maul me. For anyone with half a shade of spiritualism, that hog was significant. I’d planned the experience so obsessively that when he turned and looked at me I spoke to him. I actually thanked him for being just a wee baby pig and not a full grown adult. I’m not sure what the heck encouraged him to the house like that. It’s a high traffic area, with a road on one side, a massive hill, and dog city (or at least it was dog city. Now it’s back to just Cecelia, Tooga and me). Whether the dogs ran him up there to the catch pen or they caught him in there I don’t know. What I felt like I knew for sure (and I don’t know very much) was that this was the hog I had planned for. A friend of mine recounted his story of shooting a hog 7 times before it dropped. A few years ago in “Ranch Management University” (that’s where city folk go to learn and be more like country folk) I watched a video of a man on a hillside shooting a hog over and over as it came at him. See I had this worry going on over and over in my brain that if I were attacked by a hog in the field, I darn well better have a few good dogs with me. And I darn well better wait till that hog is close enough that I would be sure to hit it in the head. No room for mistakes. And as I was thanking the piggy and also pondering that if I goofed, I really didn’t want to end up in a hospital right then (because of the Rona), but at least I would only go in being mauled (No big deal. I’ve suffered worse…). And I shot him. And killed him. Right between his piggy eyes. And then I carried on the rest of my day, taking two groups of riders, tending to my sick son, and, I’ll admit, a little pleased that my vision had come true and I had the chance to enact what I’d pictured over the years.
The following weeks are almost a blur. The next day our most beloved giant parrot fish, Father Rooster, died. It was a strong follow-up to the boar, to Sam being sick. See we got that Parrot Fish when Sam was four and I separated from his father. I was left penniless and was scrambling for any cent I could get my hands on. I remember putting change into the gas tank to fill her up. Times were hard. I counted every penny. I had no business getting that fish. But my we needed that fish. We needed something bold and colorful. Something beautiful. Something vibrant. And we bought Father Rooster.
So Father Rooster, the very simple of tenacity and perseverance, died the day after I shot my dream hog in my dream way with my dream dogs. Tooga would have been there for sure, by the way, but he was busy tending to the boy. Tooga Dog is Sam’s protector, and he was with Sam. I was so, so thankful to have Bingo and Cecelia by my side. What a blow. Well I didn’t even have time to process it. I was spinning from a call I had made to my mother, Eleanor, the night before. She’s unhealthy. She’s unhappy. She’s what therapists label “toxic.” She does things like blow smoke into my three year old’s mercerized face and whispers, seductively, “isn’t that coooool?”
Yah. So to all the folks who might be tempted to say “BUT she’s your MOTHER” can shove it. I’ve got a kid to take care of. I’ll take care of Eleanor when I need to take care of Eleanor. So “El,” as she apparently goes by now, couldn’t figure out who I was. My mother began suffering from the effects of early onset Alzheimer’s when I was in my teens. I’ve kept up with her over the years despite her downright meanness, her hostility, her toxicity.
Being the sole custodian of my child has not left me space to figure out how to handle the kiddo, handle the ranch handle the household AND handle the irate and toxic El. She has so many (interesting) false memories of me, she mixes me up with a woman I’ve never met named “Joanne” who she thinks is her daughter. Charming. So I call El to check in on her because she tends to subside on alcohol and prescription medication over food. Doesn’t want to get fat, you know. More on that later. So I call El and she can’t figure out who I am, doesn’t have a clue about old Rona, doesn’t have actual food in the house. (This memory makes me chuckle and cringe at how she would encourage me as a teenager to eat ten saltine crackers and chicken broth for lunch. “Eat as much as you want” of the jalapeños, my teenager friend Michele and I would laugh. “As much as you want!”)
I’m just calling El to make sure she has food. She keeps asking me who I am and I keep quizzing her to see if she can hold onto the information that there is a national pandemic and she needs actual food lest the grocery stores become difficult to navigate. “Can’t you come take me to the grocery store?” she asks. I’m 20 hours drive away. Last time I bought plane tickets for myself and Sam to visit her, she canceled last minute and told me she would call the cops if I came. Charming. Anyhow…
Recap: My timeline was I got sick, Sam got sick, shot the boar, called the Eleanor, found the fish and then, I muster my strength to face a full day of trails on a busy Saturday. Being the dutiful citizen I am, I call Sam’s doctor to see what they want me to do. He’s still a bit wheezy, but nothing we haven’t handled hundreds of times before. I called because of Rona. That’s all. Well was I in for a fun surprise. I ended up on a call line. This is an interesting story we’ll get to another time. The short story is, although I felt there was absolutely no emergency, I was instructed that if I did not take Sam to an ER within one hour, “they” (I still don’t know who They are) would report that I was not following their recommended protocol. Yikes. Talk about scrambling your day. I’ll get on the multiple bee attacks that followed Father Rooster’s death. This is long enough but I gotta say getting attacked by bees at the insurance company, Tractor Supply, the gas station and HEB was eery. Swarming me. Eery. Also on my timeline: I paid off the truck (YAY) and started a garden (a serious work in progress). Then Bingo dies. Then I lose the ATV. It’s been hard. Really, really hard.
I’ve been quite encouraged lately to “blog,” to video blog, to write and share. I know there’s a lot more to the wild book of life I need to write, but this will perhaps give me some peace just for tonight. It’s 4:33am and I’m one cup of tea in. I’ve got enough help from Sam and a few other neighborhood kids that I’m getting by ok here at the ranch. (That is correct. I am running my ranch with the help of a few child laborers.). I know tomorrow will be tough. I’m terribly sore and tossing and turning all night is no way to start the day. That said, I’ve lived through much, much worse and all said and done this is really just a drop in the bucket. The drops are a little more precious to me at the moment. The bucket is low on water. Bingo was a downright spill and in truth, while I have few physical possessions I really truly love, I LOVED and appreciated that ATV. It kept me safe. It kept my animals safe. I’ll be rounding the horses up on horseback tomorrow and there’s added danger to that. I know there’s no space for mistakes right now and in truth, if I broke a bone, I’d call in a nurse or vet (no names shall be named but that’s how I get medical care these days) to straighten me up. (Don’t try to even guess. I work with many vets and have had many nurses over the years add their number to my Zombie Apocalypse Emergency List and you KNOW I’ve been planning on the Zombie Apocalypse…). Don’t worry, I’ll wear a helmet. (I’ve been doing that since getting full custody of Sam). Yes I’ll be careful. I’ll sorely miss that ATV.
We still haven’t buried Father Rooster. Perhaps it’s well fitting to bury him today, on Good Friday, four weeks after Friday the 13th when all hell was getting ready to break lose on the MacCoy Funny Farm. I’d like to bury him in the east side of the garden, with the rising sun, under the mimosa tree. Bingo is buried on the west side, facing the morning sun, protecting us eternally on the rock wall, overlooking the valley of babies. Apparently I’m not finished being sad because I’m crying. Again. I thought the numbness I experienced when Bingo died was the result of my having my hind end handed to me too many times over the years. Guess it turns out I do still feel. That’s good. I guess. I know the crying will stop. I know sleep will come. In the meantime I’ll make myself smile on the inside joking that maybe I should bury the ATV, too.
Y’all it is HARD to live and work a ranch life. I can’t say I wouldn’t trade it for something else. It’s hard. It’s so hard. It’s so much HARDER than so many other jobs. In so many ways. I know, because I’ve done them. I’ll drone on about my working career some other time, but just know I had quite the resume before I left City Mouselandia to live a life off the land. While I might trade my current day (and night and afternoon-job), I wouldn’t for a second go back, do-over, and skip this experience. I have no idea where the new world and the new economy are taking Mavericks. I hope the boar (which is said to symbolize that one should self isolate from the world –WOW– ) and the bees (an omen of good fortune to come) are spot on. I sure could use a run of good luck. I also know that good luck might not be in my cards. And that’s ok. I’ll keep living life, one step, one breath, one moment at a time. I’ll cling hard to the good memories, be thankful for the folks who lend me a helping hand and maybe even give myself some space to be sad about Bingo, Father Rooster, Eleanor and my ATV. I am proud. I am. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m proud I still say a prayer of thanks overnight for sending my child to sleep in a clean bed (well… normally it’s pretty clean anyhow), with a full belly of nutritious food, having demonstrated for him over the past four weeks that you get knocked down. You get back up again. You get knocked down and you just don’t quit. You don’t quit believing. You don’t quit loving. You don’t quit trying, leading with kindness as much as you can, apologizing when you’re gruff. You don’t quite thinking of others (even though sometimes you really do need to focus on yourself for the moment). You don’t quit trying to be good, trying to walk the way of Jesus, trying to learn and grow.
We may quit the ranch. I sure hope we don’t. But we may. Time, and the community will tell. Austin has supported us with open arms. Lockhart has not really known what the heck to do with me most of the time. Heck! I get it. In all truth, I don’t even know what to do with me half the time. Other than keep breathing. Keep believing. Keep loving.
A Note About Mavericks
If you’d like to support female, first-generation ranching, ecological restoration and our company, which was founded using the principles of Community Based Management, please read more about us. Mavericks has been blessed to enjoy features in a variety of articles, videos and posts. A few points of interest are Texas State Highways three page spread (click HERE) and Austin Woman Magazine (click HERE), which both feature Mavericks for it’s healthy and active living components. You can learn more about our end game goal, which is to convert the ranch (once completely sustainable) to a respite center for foster children by pursuing our website and following along on this blog roll.
Due to the day-to-day nature of ranching now combined with a shared human experience of the “world pandemic,” we are in need of your support. Want to help? Just ask. Email MaverickHorsebackRiding.com for our wish list, which ranges from help from cinematographers to web development, a new ATV or simple manual labor.
Mavericks was previously listed as #6 on Austin Top 50, Top 15 most Romantic Things to do in Texas, Do512 and Do512 Family, Yolo Texas Travel TV Show, Road Trippers, and a host of Instagram and YouTube bloggers including Ryan Trahan, @Timeofdre, @maryjleeee @annielinco, @eddys_adventures, @madhungry for our downtown Lockhart BBQ tours, @lovelanedesigns for our Unicorn Parties, and more. We’ve participated in music videos and film crew projects including Granger Smith and the Texas Rangers TV Show on Animal Planet.
Maverick Ranch has offered a host of free community events, all fundraising activities, as well as support for third party events such as the New Braunfels Jaycee’s Annual Beer Run, the Domain “Art Walk,” and multiple events and fundraisers for Alzheimer’s Texas. Our Partnership with Farahnheight Gallery has lended Mavericks a host of gorgeous Native American Artwork that is for sale, and supports Native Americans and a horse-centric lifestyle. We don’t have any special events planned, but if you’re interested in using our beautiful hill top view as your venue, please reach out. Additionally, keep your eyes peeled in the next two or three weeks for the grand opening of our overnight stays on the bluff top, accommodating up to 10 people in beds with additional amazing comfy couch space and air mattresses available.
At Mavericks, we believe that as the world continues to hurt, people see bit by bit they need to turn away from the screen, toward each other, toward nature and toward art. We sure don’t want to give up on the work we’ve done, because we believe that more people will benefit from getting outside, getting their hands dirty, getting real physical work and nutritious food. That said, we are only here with the love and grace of the support of our community.
Read the next post HERE.